Tuesday, 29 November 2016 22:28
Donald Trump was right: the system is rigged! But it is rigged for the Republicans, not the Democrats, for conservatives, not progressives. And the result is the election of an extreme racist, misogynist authoritarian who may change the course of U.S. and even world history.
Belatedly we learn that Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by more than two million votes, yet Trump still won the Electoral College. The public burst into an uproar in 2000 when Gore beat Bush by 550,000 votes but lost the Electoral vote. This time the public, the Clinton campaign and the press are quiet. We are glad to see Jill Stein taking the lead in contesting the vote in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.*
In fact the Electoral College system was created by slaveholders, and remains undemocratic and racist, and biased to the Republicans. Obama showed that the system can be overcome and even turned to our advantage, but the Clinton and Gore losses show it is an uphill climb.
The Racist, Undemocratic Electoral College
The 2016 election was only the fourth time in U.S. history that a presidential candidate has lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College, and thus the presidency. And Clinton’s winning margin of more than two million votes is by far the largest of any “losing” candidate.
Why is it that, in the 21st century, the Electoral College keeps trumping the popular vote on behalf of Republicans?
The pro-Republican bias of the Electoral College derives from two main dynamics: it overweights the impact of mostly conservative voters in small population states and it negates entirely the mostly progressive votes of nearly half of African American voters, more than half of Native American voters and a major swath of Latino voters.
For decades now, with a couple of exceptions, Republicans have dominated rural areas, small towns and small population states, and the Democrats control big cities and most big population states.
Well, the Electoral College rules give as much as three times as much weight to the mainly conservative and white Republicans in the rural states compared to states with large, racially diverse and majority Democratic populations.
This is because even the tiniest state has a minimum of three Electoral College votes, based on the rule that each state is allocated Electors based on the size of its congressional delegation (Senators plus Representatives). The Constitution provides that each state has a minimum of two Senators and one member of the House of Representatives, even if its total population is less than a single congressional district in a large state. (There are approximately 710,767 people in an average congressional district.)
For example, this year just over 245,000 people voted in Wyoming yet it has three Electoral College votes: one for every 82,000 or so voters. By comparison this year more than 12 million people voted in California which has 55 Electoral votes. So California has one Electoral vote for every 218,000 voters. Thus a voter in Wyoming carries almost three times the Electoral weight of a California voter. Indeed because every state has two senators, the general rule is that the higher the population of the state, the less impact each voter in that state carries in the Electoral College.
And, since the Republicans carry all the small population states except Rhode Island and Washington D.C. (which also gets 3 Electoral votes), this rule strongly favors them. This year the Electoral outcome was able to reverse Clinton’s large popular vote margin because, for the first time in decades, the Republicans carried large population states Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan in addition to Texas.
Negating the Southern Black Vote
The Electoral College system also ensures, even requires, that given the historic racial voting polarization, about half of all voters of color be marginalized or totally ignored.
Approximately 55 percent of all Blacks live in the southern states, and for decades they have voted about 90% Democratic in the presidential races. However, the pattern since 1960 is that white Republican voters defeat them in every southern and border state except Maryland and Virginia, and (in 2008) North Carolina. While whites voted 58% for Trump nationally in 2016, southern whites gave him over 70 percent of their votes. The white vote has been approximately the same since 1980.
Thus all Southern Electoral College votes except those of Maryland and Virginia went to Trump and the votes of almost half of African American voters basically do not count according to the College rules.
For example, Blacks constitute about 36% of the Mississippi electorate, the highest Black voter percentage in any state in the country. About ninety percent voted for Clinton. But whites are 64% of the state’s voters, and about 90% chose Trump. Trump therefore handily won 58% of the state’s total vote and all of its Electoral College votes.
In 2016, as for decades, the Electoral College result was the same as if Blacks in all the southern states except Virginia and Maryland had not voted at all.
Similarly negated were the votes of millions of Native American and Latino voters who live in overwhelmingly white Republican states like Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah, the Dakotas, Montana and Texas. Further, the peoples of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Guam--territories ruled by the U.S.--get no Electoral College votes at all. The tyranny of the white, conservative majority prevails.
Thus, the Electoral College system violates the principle of one person, one vote, drastically undermines the impact of the Black vote and gives the Republicans a major advantage in presidential contests. Its abolition should be a key part of the progressive agenda.
Slaveholder Origins of the Electoral College
The Founding Fathers, led by slaveholders such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe, invented the Electoral College out of thin air to serve their interests.
They codified the notorious idea that slaves were non-humans, and thus deserving of no constitutional or human rights. The one exception to this rule was the constitutional provision that slaves were to be counted as three-fifths of a person, solely for the purpose of determining how many congressional representatives each state would be allotted. Thus, even though slaves had no right to vote, the three-fifths rule vastly increased the slave states’ power in the House of Representatives and therefore the Congress.
The Electoral College, in which each state receives a number of Electors equal to their congressional delegation, was invented as the institutional means to transfer that same pro-slavery congressional allocation to determining the presidency. Slaveholders held the presidency for 50 of the 72 years before Abraham Lincoln, who was elected in 1860, became the first U.S. president to oppose the expansion of slavery. The South, accustomed to wielding political power through the selective enumeration of slaves, promptly seceded.
Since the end of slavery the Electoral College has remained a racist and conservative instrument. It has given the Republicans a running head start to win the presidency ever since reactionary Southerners switched en masse from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in protest of the 1960s civil rights legislation.
The Electoral College is one of the most powerful legacies of slavery in the U.S.
The system is rigged! And changing the system would take a constitutional amendment approved by three-fourths of the states. Consequently we are in an uphill battle that, if we master Electoral College strategy the way Obama did, we can win. Although the Electoral College is not on our side, history, including the rising progressive electorates, is.
Let’s make Trump a one term president.
Bob Wing has been a racial justice and peace activist since 1968. He was the founding editor of ColorLines magazine and War Times/Tiempo de Guerras newspaper. He is the author of The Battle Lines are Drawn: Neo-Secession or a Third Reconstruction and Notes Toward a Social Justice Electoral Strategy.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a talk show host, writer and activist. He can be followed on Twitter, Facebook and www.billfletcherjr.com. He is the co-author, with Dr. Fernando Gapasin, of Solidarity Divided, and the author of “They’re Bankrupting Us!” – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions.
*Similarly many heaped scorn on Ralph Nader in 2000 when it was learned that he received more than enough votes to throw the Florida contest, and therefore the presidency, to Bush. In 2016 Jill Stein, who won only one percent of the national vote despite the massive Bernie Sanders campaign, nonetheless exceeded Trump’s thin winning margins over Clinton in Michigan and Wisconsin. And the Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson got more votes than the margin of victory not only in those two states, but in nine more, including Pennsylvania, Florida and North Carolina.
At what point will voters learn that voting for third parties in the U.S. may be personally satisfying, but the main end result is to help our worst enemies win?*
Published in 2016 Elections
Wednesday, 24 October 2012 14:14
This is the third section of a three-part series by Bill Fletcher, Jr, reposted from Philosophers for Change. The first post, available here, addressed the current political context and efforts at socialist renewal. The second post, available here, addresses: “The Arab democratic uprising and the rise of mass Left radicalism” and “The question of who makes history.” This final section explores the ways in which the left must advance long-standing socialist concepts to be relevant and effective for the 21st century.
Refounding the Left
In the aftermath of the defeat of the Paris Commune Marx and Engels had to reflect on that experience and question some of their own propositions. This level of both self-analysis and self-criticism has been repeated occasionally in Left circles, but more frequently the radical Left holds onto certain ideological assertions as basic canon rather than making a concrete and exhaustive analysis.
Published in Bill Fletcher
Tuesday, 09 October 2012 13:31
Reposted from the Jobs With Justice blog
One of the most striking features of the Chicago teacher's strike was the level of community support for the teachers. Contrary to public expectations, the strike turned into a social mobilization around education rather than a battle for the special interests of teachers. This feature did not come out of nowhere, but actually reflected an on-going effort to shift the direction of labor unionism in America, and in this case, labor unionism among teachers.
Published in Labor
Tuesday, 14 August 2012 18:22
Reposted from Alternet | August 9, 2012
The 2012 election will be one of the most polarized and critical elections in recent history.Let’s cut to the chase. The November 2012 elections will be unlike anything that any of us can remember. It is not just that this will be a close election. It is also not just that the direction of Congress hangs in the balance. Rather, this will be one of the most polarized and critical elections in recent history.
Unfortunately what too few leftists and progressives have been prepared to accept is that the polarization is to a great extent centered on a revenge-seeking white supremacy; on race and the racial implications of the moves to the right in the US political system. It is also focused on a re-subjugation of women, harsh burdens on youth and the elderly, increased war dangers, and reaction all along the line for labor and the working class. No one on the left with any good sense should remain indifferent or stand idly by in the critical need to defeat Republicans this year.
Published in Community Organizing
Friday, 06 July 2012 03:49
A discussion of the future of socialism and social transformation must be grounded in two realities. The first reality is the broader economic, environmental and state-legitimacy crises in which humanity finds itself. In other words, the convergence of these three crises means that the necessity for a genuine Left capable of leading masses of people is more pressing than ever. It means that while one cannot sit back and wait for the supposed “final” crisis of capitalism to open up doors to freedom — since capitalism is largely defined by its continual crises — it is the case that the convergence of these three crises brings with it a level of urgency unlike any that most of us have experienced. Not only is there a need for a progressive, if not radical set of answers to these crises at the level of immediate reforms, but the deeper reality is that capitalism — as a system — is incapable of providing legitimate, sustainable answers to these crises, whether individually or collectively.
Published in Bill Fletcher
Friday, 20 April 2012 04:02
The following article was written in part for a convening of southern worker organizations and labor unions on the topic of expanding the right to organize in the right-to-work South.
Right to Work as a slow acting poison
"Right to Work," since first authorized by the Taft-Hartley Act, has served as a slow-acting poison in the veins of the US working class. It has had a particularly devastating impact on workers in the South and Southwest, but has spread to other regions as part of an on-going right-wing effort to annihilate labor unions.
Published in Labor
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Leftist at Work Column
The Leftist at Work column is a space for leftists to talk about the ways in which they organize in their workplace – whether it is how they talk with coworkers about political issues, how they are trying to build or revitalize a union, or how they orient their political perspectives to sync with their daily jobs. Some leftists find themselves confronting issues they didn’t expect would come up in their work. Other people find that they work for a non-profit or union that constrains their range of political activities. We’ll hear from organizers that struggle to balance their radical politics with the realities of working for an organization with more of a reform orientation. We’ll also hear from people who may work in an unionized workplace but try to bring their broader politics into the workplace – such as anti-racism, anti-war, or pro-immigrant rights.
Introduction: Leftist at Work
Written by Labor Editors
Union members & Occupy Wall Street: Two interviews
Written by Labor Editors
Feminism at Work
Written by Lynne Williams
Zuccotti at Work: Daydreams of a Rank and Filer
Written by Amy Muldoon
Serving the people while we’re in the weeds: A union waitress and her organizing practice
Written by Dina Yarmus